Belmont alumni ministry grows into nationwide movement
When MacKenzie Wilson and MacKenzie Baker started planning a Bible study during their sophomore year at Belmont, they were mostly just looking to make new friends.
But the group of 20 women who met inside the Bell Tower in 2012 has grown into Delight — a nationwide movement present on more than 90 college campus across the U.S.
MacKenzie and MacKenzie — who go by “Mac” and “Kenz” to minimize confusion — haven’t always been the dynamic duo they are today.
They met in the Gabhart cafeteria with their moms during freshman move in, but they didn’t become friends until the very end of the year.
“You know how it’s so awkward because you’re with your mom, and you’re low-key embarrassed,” Baker said. “Her mom was standing behind me and heard my mom call me MacKenzie, so she was like ‘oh my gosh, you have to meet my MacKenzie!’”
“She literally called me over from across the cafeteria,” Wilson added.
They went their separate ways, until they met up for lunch at the end of the year and realized they both were struggling to make friends. They decided to go home that summer and think about ways to get more plugged in with a community of other Christians at Belmont.
“Everybody tells you, ‘hey, when you get to college you’ll meet your best friends in the world!’ But often times it can be really difficult to find them,” Wilson said.
The fall of sophomore year, they came back with an idea. If they couldn’t find the type of community they wanted, maybe they could create it themselves.
The two — along with another mutual friend — decided to start a Bible study and started inviting everyone they knew. They were thrilled when about 20 women showed up for the first meeting in the Belmont Bell Tower.
Wilson said the community they had been hoping for began to grow naturally out of that first meeting. The group started having worship nights and serving in the community together.
“We didn’t know how to lead a Bible study, we didn’t know how to create a community, we didn’t know how to do any of this,” she said. “But from the beginning, there was something special about Delight.”
Delight — named in honor of the book the group read that first semester — was going well, but it wasn’t until the summer after sophomore year that they started to think about it as something more.
“I was on a plane ride home back to California, and I was just sitting there and started asking the Lord what he had next for me and for Delight, and he gave me a vision of what it could look like to start Delight at other colleges,” Baker said.
As soon as she got off the plane, she called Wilson, and they started talking about the possibility of starting Delight on other college campuses. They then spent the rest of the summer building a Delight curriculum and trying to convince other women to start their own campus chapters.
Their tenacity paid off, and by the start of junior year they were helping to start Delight at four other schools.
Baker said she often looks back at that time and laughs at their inexperience.
“We had no idea what we were doing. We sort of had our curriculum, we sort of had an idea of what we wanted it to look like, but we were still definitely figuring it out,” she said.
“It was hilarious because we lived together, and our closets in our house were just filled with Delight binders — those chunky $5 binders that we thought were a good idea — they were not a good idea.”
By senior year, they realized that they might be able to make Delight into a full-time career.
“One day we were sitting at our kitchen table and Kenz was like ‘okay, we need to talk about this. Are we gonna do this?’” Wilson said. “I was like ‘yes. I’m so one thousand percent in.’ That was a really cool moment of getting on the same page and deciding we were going after this no matter what.”
They still didn’t know exactly how all the details would work out, but they were more excited than scared, Wilson said.
“My dad’s a pastor, so I always had the notion that I didn’t want to go into ministry and didn’t want to be like Dad,” Wilson said. “But through Delight I realized how much I loved it.”
After that conversation, Wilson and Baker spent every spare moment of senior year working on Delight.
“That year that we chose to go all in really made a difference, because the day we graduated, we were able to make it our full-time job. That just doesn’t happen often,” Wilson said.
The two credit their success mostly to each other, to God and to their ability to take risks and “put all our eggs in one basket.”
“The biggest success story for us is just the fact that we’ve been able to stick it out together through everything,” Baker said. “Mac’s gifts are so different from my gifts, so we truly couldn’t do it without each other and we’ve been able to do so much more together.”
“There’s no competition here,” Wilson added. “If Kenz does something awesome I’m like ‘yeah, go Kenz!’ because that means that Delight did something awesome. So it’s fun to have that person you can champion, and they’re going to champion you, And then you can celebrate with them when you have those amazing moments.”
Wilson and Baker were quick to point out that it hasn’t all been easy, but having each other to push through the difficult times has made it possible.
“When I’m discouraged, which happens so many times even today, Mac is there to encourage me,” Baker said.
“The days I wanted to quit, she was there,” Wilson said. “I know if one of us had had this dream all on our own, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Their formula for success may seem a little unconventional, but the results are inarguably strong.
Delight now has more than 90 chapters at college campus around the country, and Baker and Wilson are busy writing, speaking and working with their recently-hired staff of six other women.
And they’re not stopping there.
“Our ultimate goal is to have a Delight on every single college campus across the country, which we think can happen,” Wilson said. “We just want every girl who goes to college to have the opportunity to be a part of that type of community if she wants to.”
They also hope to start a national conference where all the Delight chapters can come together, and they’re working on creating a high school curriculum.
“It’s just so cool because thousands and thousands of women are getting to experience this crazy cool Christ-centered community on their college campuses,” Wilson said.
“It’s so crazy that it all started with a little meeting in the Bell Tower.”
Photo courtesy of Delight.